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Turkey-backed militants stealing ancient artifacts in Syria's Afrin: Report

A picture taken on January 29, 2018 shows destruction at the ancient temple of Ain Dara, some seven kilometres from Afrin, after it was damaged in Turkish airstrikes. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey-backed militants have begun a new operation to steal ancient artifacts from Syria’s northwestern city of Afrin, a report says.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that the mercenaries have begun a new excavation operation in search of artifacts in Afrin which lies north of Aleppo near the border of Turkey “under a direct supervision of the Turkish intelligence”.

SANA quoted local sources as saying that Ahrar al-Sharqiya terrorists had begun digging operations in search of the artifacts east of Koura village in Afrin.

According to the sources, the militants are using modern equipment in their operations provided by Turkish forces.

The excavation operation and the stealing of the ancient artifacts are conducted “systematically” and controlled by the Turkish intelligence, they added.

The operations, the report said, are aimed at selling the artifacts, “which preserve the history of the region and its Syrian identity”, to Turkish antique traders.

On October 9, Turkish military forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in a declared attempt to push YPG militants away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a memorandum of understanding that required YPG militants to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled "safe zone" in northeastern Syria within 150 hours, after which Ankara and Moscow would run joint patrols around the area.

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